How can we prepare children to succeed? In an increasingly competitive world, many parents worry that their children will be left behind if they don’t grow up to have high IQs and test scores. Because this is what leads people to success, right? Not quite. What they need is grit.
Research has shown that the qualities that matter more than test scores and talent, have to do with character. One specific trait that psychologists and educators are now focusing on as a key ingredient in happiness and success is grit.
What is grit?
The idea of “grit” was popularized by Angela Duckworth, a psychologist from the University of Pennsylvania. According to Duckworth, this concept means pursuing with passion and perseverance very long-term goals by working very hard for them.
Grit helps children and adults because it makes them continue with things or plans they set for themselves. Basically, it can be explained as determination to do things, even if you fail.
That is why teaching it promotes resilience and perseverance. In her research, Duckworth argues that more than anything, grit is what predicts who gets to the finish line of hard goals in life, because, despite failures, adversity, and slow progress, these people maintain interest and effort.
How to promote this personality trait
Interestingly, research shows grit is usually unrelated or even inversely related to talent; and, unlike IQ, which is relatively fixed, grit is something everyone can develop! So if you fear your children are not gritty enough, don’t worry, this can be taught! Sure, some kids are naturally “grittier” than others, but there’s plenty you can do to help your little one develop this trait, which will help them succeed in whatever they want to accomplish.
So, how can parents encourage grit? As it turns out, the learning environment can be designed to promote it –check out the following tips:
1. Welcome challenges
A real feeling of accomplishment happens when you pursue a difficult thing, especially one that requires discipline, practice, and effort. If your little one never has a chance to achieve something difficult, they may never develop confidence in their ability to confront a challenge. Remember that taking risks is an important way kids learn!
2. Promote perseverance
Many people wrongly believe in the idea that skills comes naturally; that if you are good or not good at something it’s because you were born that way. This belief is what leads many children to give up on things because they find it difficult. Everyone has to work and practice to improve their abilities, even naturally gifted children.
3. Create tolerance for frustration
If your child is struggling with an obstacle, resist the urge to jump in right away with a solution. First, let your child come up with a way around it. You should always be available, but encourage them to figure out a solution on their own first. Success is a road usually filled with bumps; let your child navigate along the way.
4. Model resilience through failures
Being able to pick yourself up from failure is one of the most important skills a child can learn. Although it’s hard to let your child experience failure and disappointment, in the long run, it will be one of the most valuable skills you could teach them! Resilience is a key ingredient in building grit –if you fall, you just have to get back up. You can share your own struggles, or, when faced with one, just handle it with calm and determination. Most importantly, remind your children that failure is not something to be afraid of –it’s one of the best ways to learn about something new.
5. Develop a “growth mindset” –focus on effort rather than innate skills
We’ve talked about “growth mindset” and its importance in learning in previous posts. One of the easiest things parents can do to promote this is to be very careful about the way they praise their children. In short, parents should praise effort over an outcome, to encourage children to push through pain and failure.
Grit is also contagious, so you can model this trait to your kids!